Hungary Introduces Anti‑Trans Bill While the World Is Distracted by Coronavirus
The Hungarian government, led by nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, passed a set of coronavirus measures in Parliament last week that gives Orbán the right to rule by decree. The measures include up to five years in jail for those spreading misinformation regarding the pandemic, and provide no time limit for any state of emergency in Hungary. Rights groups within the country interpreted these measures as government censorship of criticism against its policies, The Guardian reports.
A day after Orbán’s government granted him these powers, it proposed a draft law, which if passed, would end legal gender recognition for transgender people in the country. The bill seeks to define gender as “biological sex based on primary sex characteristics and chromosomes” and requires the Hungarian civil registry to record people’s “sex at birth,” making it impossible for an individual to change their gender legally.
And so it begins — conservative, alt-right politicians, under the guise of taking extreme measures to fight the Covid19 pandemic, are attempting to sneak in other policies that endanger the rights of minorities, especially those who identify as transgender. Before the coronavirus pandemic took over everyone’s lives, the Hungarian anti-trans bill would have taken center stage in world news, given Orbán’s history of laying siege upon gender studies in the nation’s universities, and the embattled state of transgender rights in the country. Now, as the world focuses on this life-threatening pandemic and other social justice issues take a backseat, LGBTQIA+ minorities bear the brunt.
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In the state of Idaho in the U.S., for example, two anti-trans bills — one banning gender changes on birth certificates and another banning trans girls from competing in girls’ sports — were quietly passed in the state Senate and signed by the state’s governor in March, as the world grappled with the initial stages of the deadly pandemic. Lawmakers in Texas, Utah, and Georgia, according to Vox, have vowed to introduce similar anti-trans bills in their state legislatures.
Throughout the world, even without discriminatory bills added to the mix, the coronavirus pandemic is disproportionately affecting transgender people. In India, for example, “transgender people [are] at heightened risk of poverty and ill health because they exist on the margins of society, eking out a living through sex work and begging,” Deccan Herald reported, quoting trans rights activists. Access to income, healthcare, and housing — already difficult feats for the subjugated transgender community in India — has become all the more difficult in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Covid19 pandemic might be an all-consuming phenomenon right now, but we cannot let bigoted lawmakers use it as a diversion to get away with attempting to reverse well-fought, hard-earned rights for the world’s sexual and gender minorities. One day, the coronavirus pandemic will be over, and where we end up cannot be further behind where we began.